A Personal Ode to Chile-Infused Oil

It’s September, people, and in my kitchen that means it’s time to make chile-infused oil. I go crazy with this stuff right about now each year, when the hot peppers come on strong. Forget that insipid “dipping” stuff sold in overpriced bottles. Real chile-infused oil couldn’t be easier to make and I put it on just about everything.

I originally made this as part of a bigger recipe in the River Cottage Every Day cookbook (great book!) but now I just make the oil itself. And did I mention I put it on everything?

Here’s the “recipe,” if you can even call it that: Simmer chopped chiles in oil. That’s it.

What, you want more information? Okay, okay. Chop up a bunch (I use 5ish, give or take) fresh hot peppers (jalapenos, serranos, scotch bonnets, whatever, or a mix). Throw em (seeds and all) into the smallest pot you’ve got, cover with olive oil, toss in some garlic (whole, peeled cloves) or not, and bring to a simmer. I think good old Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall said to let it cook for 15 mins but I don’t like the peppers to get all dark and crunchy (basically deep fried) so I just simmer a few mins and then leave it to sit, covered. That’s it. Let the eating begin.

I add the oil to any dish that would benefit from both fat and heat. And I mean, what wouldn’t? I sauté greens in it, drizzle it over rice and beans, rub it on bluefish before roasting, toss summer squash and onions in it before baking, swap it for veg oil in a squid stir-fry, scramble eggs in it, unleash it in potato salad and cole slaw, dress cucumber or corn salad with it, finish pastas with it (everything from broccoli rabe to clams), jazz up cauliflower with a drizzle…hell I seriously dip my peanut butter sandwich in there. I haven’t used the oil to make spicy mayo, but you should. And by all means, eat the peppers themselves, they’ve still got a little heat but their full-on burn is now diffused throughout the oil, leaving them just a little hot and plenty sweet.

My mom asked me how to keep this and I don’t know the answer. Should it be sealed in a jar? Stuck in the fridge? I honestly go through it so fast, I just leave it in the little pot on the stove where it’s always within arm’s reach and in a few days, when I’ve used it up, I make another batch, until chile season is over. Which at this point shouldn’t be for a good three weeks. Yum.

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